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The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

The King's Curse

by Philippa Gregory

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I didn't realize there was going to be a sixth book in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series, about the royal women of the War of the Roses. This book is about Margaret Pole, a first cousin of Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and the subject of the fifth book in the series. The White Princess. Margaret Beaufort, Henry's mother and the subject of the second book in the series, The Red Queen, is also a character in this book.

Despite its length (597 pages in print), and Gregory's ongoing problems with frequent and unnecessary repetition of the full names and titles of characters in conversations (which would not happen in real life), as well as "She shrugs" and "He nods" and variations thereof, I liked this book better than the last two in the series. Margaret Pole is much more interesting than either Elizabeth of York or Anne Neville (The Kingmaker's Daughter, book four), who were rather passive characters.

Because Margaret Pole lived such a long life (1473-1541), her life also intersects with Henry VIII and his first three wives. She's especially loyal to Catherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary Tudor. Margaret is also a devout Catholic who, along with her three surviving sons, is upset with Henry VIII for his persecution of the Church. Along with the fact she has royal blood and her sons are potential rivals for the throne, Margaret has more than enough in her life to arouse the suspicions of the king. She manages to do so, more or less, for her first 65 years.

Gregory's four-page author's note at the end of the book explains some suppositions for her fiction and purports an interesting theory about Henry VIII's degeneration and the loss of so many Tudor babies. I was also surprised to learn that Margaret Pole was beatified as a martyr for the Catholic Church.

The print version also includes an eight-page bibliography of five-plus pages, two maps, and two family trees, one at the book's beginning dated 1499 (where the story begins) and another at the end dated 1541 (when the story ends). I wish the latter had gone ahead and included post 1541 death dates for those still alive when Margaret was executed. I would have liked to have known how long her three surviving children lived beyond her death, without having to look them up.

The audiobook doesn't have the bibliography, maps, or charts, although they could have been easily added as a PDF file. The story is told in first-person by Margaret, and is read by South African actress and audiobook veteran Bianca Amato, who also does an excellent job creating a voice for Margaret that ages as she does.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Dec 7, 2014 |
This was a good book but not my favorite of hers. I did like how she showed King Henry as being a bit of a spoiled brat. Being real people it was a little hard to really like any of the characters. They had to be hard people but it is hard to read about. ( )
  Virginia51 | Nov 29, 2014 |
This was an interesting book. Seeing Henry VIII's deterioration from the point of view of his cousin who has known him since he was born really gave you a new perspective. I really like Margaret Pole, but I disliked how she kept saying she didn't know about the curse. It was like an echo to Elizabeth of York in The White Princess that was rather annoying. I'm really sad the series about the Plantagenets is over because I really liked reading about this family (particularly about the three brothers of York). It'll be interesting to see what time period Philippa picks next. ( )
  rabidmunkee | Nov 7, 2014 |
The last book in the Cousin's War series and a very good way to end. Using Margaret Pole as her narrator created the opportunity forma somewhat wider view of this period. As she was Elizabeth of York's cousin and guardian to the young couple Catherine of Aragón and the Prince of Wales. Later lady in waiting to Queen Catherine. Royal in her own right she led a stressful life, tight roping her way between first Henry the seventh and then the whims of his infantile son when he became king.

It also provided the chance to see a different view of the conspiracies in play, and the reactions of the people working the land. In particular their hatred of Henry and his treatment of the monasteries. Though at one time loved, Henry of course became much hated but always feared.

Of course I knew how it all ended, nevertheless this book did capture and hold my interest, ably taking me back to this time period. ( )
  Beamis12 | Nov 7, 2014 |
“The King’s Curse” is set in England from 1499-1541, told from the viewpoint of Lady Margaret Pole, niece of Edward IV and of Richard III.

I believe this sixth instalment from the Cousins’ War is also the last. I do prefer this one to “The White Queen”, “The Red Queen”, and “The White Princess” though the narrative voice in this novel strikes me as the blandest of the series.

As other readers have commented, there are historical inaccuracies that the author is apparently aware of but has decided to tweak certain events to suit the story. As this is a work of fiction I guess there’s no harm in this, though certain changes do seem pointless, such as stating that Richard III named Edward the Earl of Warwick as his heir when in reality he nominated John de la Pole Earl of Lincoln.

In fact the de la Pole brothers are hardly mentioned. Richard – aka “The White Rose” – is omitted altogether. Perhaps the author felt this was one aspect too many, considering all the other events taking place in this long narrative.

Still, Richard de la Pole’s activities may have livened things up, plus it would’ve done the book no harm to have some of the more trivial and repetitive elements omitted.

I feel that if an author wants to make several alterations to true historical events then why not write an actual historical fantasy? Or an alternative history? Just a thought.

Repetition is something apparent throughout this series. Amongst other things, this book grabs hold of the belief that the Tudors have been cursed by former queens Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York, and the reader is reminded of this a little too often.

The form of repetition that irritates me the most, which is evident in all six books, is the constant need to refer to characters by their full names and titles. In some instances the reader is reminded again and again of the relationship of certain characters, as is noted in the example below:

“In the stable yard my companions mount their horses: my two granddaughters, Jane’s girls, Katherine and Winifred.”

At this stage I know who Margaret’s two companions are. I don’t need reminding that they’re her granddaughters. I know they’re Jane’s girls. I don’t need their names specifying again. I certainly don’t need it pointing out that there are two of them.

So in one sentence the author is informing the reader of Margret’s companions in four different ways when she could have said either:

1) “In the stable yard my companions mount their horses.”

2) “In the stable yard my granddaughters mount their horses.”

3) “In the stable yard Jane’s girls mount their horses.”

4) “In the stable yard Katherine and Winifred mount their horses.”

The above is one of several examples of not only using excess words but also of superfluous punctuation. Other reviews I’ve read of this series have picked up on the author’s overuse of commas. This is true. She tends to use so many of them – sometimes aided and abetted by semicolons or colons – that it becomes a distraction. This can be avoided by constructing stronger and more concise sentences.

It’s really only my interest in the Wars of the Roses that’s made me read the whole series. Ms Gregory is a good storyteller who’s capable of setting the scene and bringing characters alive. She’s especially good at creating child characters.

But what’s put me off reading more of her books is her lack of good English style, using numerous words when a few will suffice, needless repetition, sometimes taking too much liberty with historical events, pointless dialogue attribution in which she states who’s speaking when it’s obvious who it is, and in some instances having a tendency of “telling” rather than “showing”. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Oct 17, 2014 |
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The riveting story of Margaret Pole, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, and was one of the few surviving members of the Plantagenet dynasty after the Wars of the Roses. Plantagenet, once carried proudly by Margaret like a crown upon her head, is now, at the end of the 15th century, the most dangerous name in England.… (more)

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